Early English Encounters in Russia, West Africa and the Americas, 1530-1614

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In recent years, the field of comparative study has enjoyed a resurgence of attention as scholars attempt to understand the past in a global context. For scholars interested in early American history, the new emphasis on the connections throughout the Atlantic has been particularly rewarding. This book offers a different approach to the study of the Atlantic World, one that strikes a balance between the ability of a grand thesis to allow broad generalizations and comparisons, and the ability of more focused studies to provide detail. Through this comparative study, the author argues that the English participants in first contact attempted to assert their control over the natives of region by placing them into categories that were both recognizable and inferior, using ideas of class and gender hierarchies. The native peoples were not quick to give up their sources of power, however, and were often able to assert their own control over the situation. The disjuncture between English literary pretensions to superiority and their actual dependence on native peoples led to increasing friction and ultimately, violence. This study makes important contributions to the study of race, class, and gender in the Atlantic World on the eve of colonization.


"Focusing upon that expansion of the English world outward into a number of alien peripheries that began during the reign of Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603), the author broadens our understanding of 'first contact,' which was less an event than a process, that unfolded not only on American shores but in Africa and in Russia as well ... This monograph is really a study of how those English men who traveled abroad in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries learned, and formed impressions, about the people they were then encountering ... Attitudes about class and gender also played an important role in shaping English attitudes toward Americans, Russians and Africans ..." - Professor Michael Oberg, State University of New York at Geneseo

Table of Contents

1. The English Abroad: Who They Were, Why They Left, and What They Thought
2. The Fun-House Mirror: The English in Russia
3. African Landlords and English Strangers: Trade and Accommodation in West Africa, 1530-1566
4. Roanoke: The Accidental Colony
5. “A Pleasing Dream of a Golden Fancy”: The English in Guiana, 1595-1625
6. Diplomacy, Dependency, and Death: Jamestown, 1607-1614

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